The Bud is back. Basalt’s successful international tea company is once again called Two Leaves and a Bud. A couple years ago the company shortened its name to Two Leaves Tea Company. They heard from many customers about that and, last month the bud returned. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen explains.
Tea company founder Richard Rosenfeld takes the blame for shortening the company’s name. He thought the original name - Two Leaves and a Bud - was too long. It didn’t take long for customers to respond.
"We had consumers saying, ‘What did you do?’ We had people who thought that someone had copied us. We had a large contingent that thought we had removed the name on account of the marijuana connection, which was not the case at all."
To the delight of patrons, the company announced last month that the "bud is back." A redesigned logo will show up on packaging later this summer.
All this comes as the Basalt firm celebrates its tenth anniversary. At its small office along the Roaring Fork River, it’s not uncommon to see staffers taking part in a “cupping.”
"Everyone participates in tastings, so this morning I was cupping tea with one of our customer service reps. We were cupping the English Breakfast and one of the Assams."
Rosenfeld is something of a tea cupping extraordinaire. Today, we’re sampling a loose-leaf Chinese green tea.
"The first thing I’ll do is stick my nose over it and give it a little whiff. Most of our taste buds are located in our nose, not in our mouth. We slurp for a couple reasons. One is, it cools things down and two is, it spreads it out over your taste buds."
He slurps and then sets the cup down.
"It’s got floral, leafy notes to it, you’ve got a little earth in there and you can taste n the bottom/back of the mouth. But, I think this one really hits nicely on the front and middle of the tongue."
Rosenfeld’s love for tea began before starting Two Leaves and a Bud, when he was traveling.
"With my other business I was traveling in Sri Lanka a lot and I got interested in the tea business. And, I decided in 2002 I would start a tea company literally because I couldn’t find a good cup of tea in the U.S."
A few years later Two Leaves and a Bud was born and, it has grown. Now, it distributes tea around the world to coffee shops, restaurants and grocery stores. Besides its headquarters in Basalt, the company operates a warehouse in Ohio and helps employ tea growers in places like China and India. But in a highly competitive tea market, Rosenfeld says his company is a still a small player.
"We are tiny compared to a Starbucks who owns Tazo, compared to Lipton. Our goal is not global domination, our goal is a better cup of tea," he says.
Tea sales in the United States are growing. The Tea Association of the USA reports the total wholesale value of tea sold last year was $10 billion. Compare that to $2 billion two decades ago. The Association attributes the growth to convenience, availability and an increasing health consciousness among consumers.
When it comes to specialty teas, like Two Leaves and a Bud, Rosenfeld says consumers are increasingly demanding top quality.
"So, we have people drinking better and better tea. The consumer’s palate is evolving, for the better in my opinion, in the same way it’s happening with food."
Even though his company is growing, Rosenfeld says doing business in the Roaring Fork Valley is tough.
"We are based here because we all love living here. It’s probably the world’s worst place to start a business like Two Leaves and a Bud," he says.
High real estate and transportation costs combined with finding skilled workers and operating from a small mountain town continue to pose challenges. Still, the company has no plans to relocate.